commercial to residential conversion labour manifesto new-build uk housing

Big changes for UK housing as new government announces plans

Kickstarting housebuilding is set to be top of the agenda for the newly elected Labour party, and it’s expected to draw more national and international investment.

Sir Keir Starmer’s first few days as prime minister have been action-packed, and the Labour party so far seem determined to fulfil their promise to bring about change for the UK.

The UK housing market formed a big part of the party’s election manifesto, which included a number of promises linked to housebuilding and planning reform, and the new chancellor Rachel Reeves is expected to make further announcements on these points today.

The new secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities has been named as Angela Rayner, who is also the deputy prime minister, which could be a nod to how essential this department is to the party. Matthew Pennycook has been appointed housing minister, bringing to the table a wealth of experience in UK housing policy.

Compulsory housebuilding

Later today, chancellor Rachel Reeves – who is the first ever female to take on the role in the UK – is widely expected to announce at the Treasury that Labour will reintroduce compulsory housebuilding targets, which had been scrapped, or watered down, by Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government.

Labour’s original building targets for the UK housing sector had been 1.5 million new homes over the next five years, so this figure is highly likely to come up in the speech later.

But how will this be achieved? Labour’s stance on planning was quite different to the Conservatives’ policy, which pledged to protect the green belt. By contrast, Labour have suggested relaxing planning rules on ‘grey belt’ land, which is classed as poor quality green belt land.

The effect of this would be to unlock more space on which to build, which could drastically improve the prospects of boosting UK housing supply. Labour also supports building on brownfield sites as a priority, before turning to the grey belt.

The new category of land would include “poor-quality scrubland, mothballed on the outskirts of town”, such as a disused petrol station in Tottenham that is currently classed as green belt, Labour said earlier this year.

Boosting UK housing for economic growth

The UK housing sector goes hand in hand with economic growth, according to new housing minister Pennycook, and attracting more private investment by opening up more housebuilding opportunities is a key part of this strategy.

Chancellor Rachel Reeves is expected to state later today that improving GDP is a “national mission”, which will improve “the prosperity  of our country and the living standards of working people”.

UK housing construction, according to many in the Labour party, has been blocked by ‘Nimbyism’ within the Conservative party, and reforming planning to unlock new potential sites across the country will not only aid UK housing supply, but will boost opportunities for people to work and live in new areas with more jobs.

The party hope that loosening planning red tape will attract tens of billions of pounds from private investors into the green industry and housebuilding.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Darren Jones, said: “What we are seeking to do is tackle inertia in the system, to speed up the decision making, and then to be able to drive growth through unlocking the investment that we are told is available.”

UK housing is “pivotal” for government

Speaking in support of the potential new building targets in the UK housing sector, Nathan Emerson, Chief Executive of Propertymark says: “We welcome the appointment of Matthew Pennycook as Housing Minister within the newly formed cabinet.

“Housing must play a pivotal role for the government moving forwards and in real terms, delivering over 1,100 new homes every single working day for the next five years will take immense planning and enormous stakeholder engagement to achieve.

“There needs to be a long-term cross-party approach with continuity built in as standard – we should never be looking at a housing plan as an insular five year government term, in case of any change down the line.

“The housing sector is crying out for a vastly increased supply to keep pace with demand, there simply can be no room for error moving forwards or we may end up with prices artificially rocketing due to consumer desperation in finding a suitable home for their needs.

“There must be a broad mix of sustainably built homes that brings much needed stock to both buyers and renters. The plan must be delivered with precision and in a way that is connected with wider government planning to ensure key infrastructure is provisioned for as the population further grows.”

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